Appointing staff - why you should go for the best!

You have two options. One will be popular the other not. Which do you go for?

When it comes to appointing staff, go for the best!

Faced with the prospect of appointing my first deputy head early in my headship career, I had some definite ideas of the sort of skills I needed working alongside me:

  • An interest in maths and science to balance my arts bias
  • Good understanding of curriculum design to support my limited class teaching experience
  • Energy and enthusiasm to keep up with me

The job description and person specification were the standard sort with a couple of school specific things but I didn’t feel any of it would prevent a good crop of applications.

Poor quality

We had enough applications to short-list and governors and I approached the interviews with some excitement but it proved to be a short lived feeling. The quality of those putting themselves forward to be my deputy was dire. It was not a lack of teaching experience, it was just lack of ‘nowse’ and general common sense. Sadly some of the male candidates seemed to think that because I was female and in an older age category, I had no idea what I was doing and needed a ‘strong man’ at the helm. I presume they thought I’d sit in my office drinking tea all day!

Go again

The panel was in agreement that there was no-one there that was of the calibre the school needed. It was so disappointing as I had joined the school as deputy HT, shortly moved to acting head when the previous incombant resigned and was made substantive HT 2 terms later so was keen to get my team going. We took the scary decision to advertise again. Why was it scary?

  • We would have to spend more money that we didn’t have advertising
  • Would we get a different pool of applicants?
  • What would happen in the meantime?

No matter how nerve wracking and annoying the delay was, it was important to get the right person.

Internal candidates

During the first round, no-one from within the school applied. They all felt that there were better qualified folk out there and just looked on with interest as the process went ahead. They, like the panel were shocked at the paucity of talent so when we advertised again there were two internal applicants. Both had worked at the school before I arrived and both were excellent teachers and had very different approaches to teaching.

Arts v Sciences

One led English the other science and both fitted the stereo-type we often think of when it comes to these subjects. Both were more than colleagues and had supported me in those first few months of my headship so when it came to the interviews I had a real decision to make. As expected, both provided an excellent case for their appointment but I had to think beyond that performance. I knew one would challenge me and so the temptation to choose the one that would give me an easier time was great. However, it was about moving the school and myself forward and we needed the challenge.

The right decision

The next year was proof that the right decision had been made. It was not always comfortable for me as I had to look at things in a different, sometimes, testing way. I learnt a great deal and  was able to use my skills to extend the learning of my deputy. The result was a great partnership that could, and at times did, take on the world

So, don’t always go for the easy, comfortable option. Look beyond the performance of the day and really challenge yourself to pick the right one for the school.

This post was originally posted here.

For more recruitment advice, read Graham Chisnell’s article, “You’ve got the job – top tips for schools and applicants” 

Comments are closed